Sunday, March 5, 2017

Just Say No To CMSA

Just reading through the extensive complaint filed with the CPS Inspector General agains CMSA and its affiliates. Dan Mihalopoulos covered it here. 

I believe CMSA is trying to pull a "charter amendment" expansion by 100 seats or so here in Rogers Park; there is no way this should be approved until the inspector general finishes an investigation.

Here's a little excerpt of the recent complaint. It's what I've been saying for five years.
In the span of a few years, Akgun and his Gülenist colleagues created a vertically integrated chain of businesses and vendors, all feeding upon a captive customer base of charter schools. In many ways, Concept's founders created a micro-economy whereby the vendor, Concept, can create its own customer base (the charter schools), systematically overcharge that customer base, and then use the resulting funds to create more customers. This micro-economy favors vendors within the Gülen Organization—they get the charter schools' contracts and business, regardless of procurement requirements designed to prevent sweetheart deals, and these vendors are then free to overcharge and underperform with impunity as the crony charter school governing boards do not hold them accountable. This pattern of exploitation, nepotism, and sweetheart deals to favor the Gülen Organization is plainly demonstrated by CMSA's dealings with both Concept and NPL. 

They're creating a little private economy, publicly funded, with no public oversight.

Meanwhile, the Gulenists are in it for the long haul; they've recently come after the most comprehensive Gulen research site,, which was taken down by Weebly after a bullshit copyright claim from the Gulenists in Turkey. The whole thing is explained here. 

There isn't anyone who has researched the Gulen charter schools who hasn't used the now-censored site.

Follow CASILIPS for more information.  The Gulenists are not going to go away; they're relentless-- and despite the veneer of civility, these guys have never once been interested in free speech or human rights, not here and certainly not in Turkey.

One more thing from the recently filed complaint in Illinois:

Like each of the charter schools it creates and manages, Concept itself has been controlled by a governing board of Turkish directors since its inception, and Concept's leadership is entirely comprised of Turkish individuals.10 Concept has also facilitated the immigration of large numbers of Turkish individuals to the United States through the H-1B program. In its own name, Concept has filed 167 H-1B applications from 2001-2015.11 The use of the H-1B program exists in every Concept-managed charter school, favoring Turkish nationals specifically, and in Illinois and Ohio alone, Concept and its charter schools have collectively filed and paid for over 784 H- 1B applications from 2001-2015.12
With H-1B visa costs ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 per application, between $1.6 million and $3.1 million of taxpayer funds have been used to fund the large-scale immigration of Turkish nationals into employment at Concept-managed charter schools. 

784 visa applications!

Ok, more later. For now, a helpful diagram of the Gulen node here in the midwest, from the Amsterdam complaint:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Ungraded Test In Illinois

Remember me?

I'm gonna jump right back in while I'm on my feet.  More on that, later.

Has this been in the news? Compared to our ongoing national disaster, it's definitely back-burner, but someone has to document it.

Last year, all Illinois 5th and 8th graders lost a day of science instruction to take the Illinois Science Assessment, a new test in the stable of tests that kids have to take.

It was never graded; nobody ever got the scores. It's a metaphor for where we are as a society.

I honestly can't remember the teeth behind whatever law or policy mandated this test, and I'm too tired to research it. Was it baked into the law? Was it a federal rule? Could we have "opted out" as a state? Dunno. Don't care any more.

We're getting ready to give the test again, and last year's scores still aren't graded.  For me, this is the killer line in the above-linked press release.
Budgetary uncertainty at the state level delayed the start of the scoring process for ISA, but the scoring process is now underway. ISBE expects schools to have spring 2016 assessment results in summer 2017. 
"Budgetary uncertainty" is the new phrase for Bruce Rauner's failure to govern the state. It's as simple as that. He "governs" with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude, because frankly the state could burn down and it wouldn't affect him personally.

And now they've figured out a way to grade the damn thing, but it still won't be graded until after this year's 5th and 8th graders take the test. And then presumably, at some point, those tests will get graded.

We waste so much time and money on these assessments. Let me put it this way: we're about to give the PARCC again, and the PARCC sounds like it's going away soon. Then we're going to give this science test, even though last year's test still isn't graded.

Why are we doing any of this?

As for the science assessment, here's what I can say from the trenches.

1. Teachers don't know what's on these tests because you're not allowed to look at them. I understand the reasoning, but there needs to be some kind of accountability for the test writers.  And there needs to be a mechanism for actual school districts to confirm that the actual test items measure the signals they claim to measure.That goes for all of these tests that nobody's allowed to look at.

2. Nevertheless, the security flaw in the science test is obvious to everyone. I won't even say what it is, but as far as I'm concerned, the presence of the flaw invalidates the scores. If they're going to set cut scores on this test based on the results, then the flaw needs to be resolved.

3. The back end of the test is handled well by ISBE. It's easy to administer and easy to give. Especially compared to PARCC, the administration of which is basically a full-time job. The ISBE people are really the best of the best.

4. One of the arguments ISBE puts out for the new grading plan for the science test is itself an argument against PARCC. Look:
Illinois students will benefit from the return on our investment in a cost-efficient, fully aligned, and locally developed assessment system. The process of hand-scoring delivers valuable professional development to Illinois educators and science experts. Partnering with a local research institution, instead of outsourcing the hand-scoring to an out-of-state vendor, keeps both the work and the institutional knowledge of scoring the exams within Illinois.
PARCC is a joke when you look at it from that particular lens.

We need to revisit the opportunity cost of testing every kid every year, at a bare minimum. All of these tests could be sampled, like the NAEP, and everyone would be better off for it.

Meanwhile, let's keep our eye on this assertion:
SIU will engage science experts and Illinois educators licensed to teach science in hand-scoring the 1.3 million ISA test items.
I'm interested to see how that's going to play out.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Scenes From Rogers Park

Greetings, all.

Trying to keep my head above water here, so here are just some quick tidbits. First, a couple pictures from the neighborhood.

Loyola pier, my most frequent subject.

I'm on this beach basically every day of my life; it's where I've walked my dogs since I moved back here. Recently one of the big local magazines asked me if they might be able to use one of my pier shots in a piece; what a thrill, to get an email like that. Unfortunately I didn't have the original image any more, just some low-res upload of it.

When Ranger the Dog died, I sat on this very spot and spelled her name out with rocks and pebbles, and watching the waves take away the rocks over the next couple of days helped me say goodbye to that great dog.

Here's Morse Station, on the Red Line.

When it's really cold, the sky over this well-lit station is intensely blue just before full darkness descends. I always loiter a while just to take it in.

Here's a strange clip I took while driving. I narrate, as well. I have to commute up to the north shore every day, and sometimes I take Ridge north to Oakton, or sometimes all the way up to Wilmette.  Ridge Road is a CTA route; it's Bus 206, the "Evanston Circulator," and let me tell you there is a long-standing war between the 206 drivers and everyone else.

Ridge Road is just too narrow to be a four lane road with bus stops, that's the main problem. The CTA drivers have figured out that the safest thing for their passengers (I guess) is to turn Ridge into a three-lane road.  And this is what that looks like. Ridge is actually a boulevard, not a road, but I've never heard anyone refer to it as such.

I've seen people in the mornings create near-disaster head-on collision situations trying to get past the 206.

That's all I've got. I miss writing, gotta get back to it after this dark period of employment-related misery passes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hey I Am Here!

Hey, I'm still here. I'm stuck in job hell.

I think when I get in this mode I'm going to top-post my Twitter feed. I never stop Tweeting; I'm like Trump.

Except sane and mature and fit for office. I'll be back in a bit.

This Twitter widget is sorta lame. Click on the little time stamp to get the expanded view of any particular tweet.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A New Gulen Connection At ISBE

Big week ahead. Betsy DeVos gets her confirmation hearing tomorrow. The bar for Secretary of Education is pretty low, but she's not fit for the office. Trump is probably under the impression that all public schools are "a disaster" and that they all need to go, or whatever. He's such a dumbass; I can't even imagine what's going through his hair at any given moment.

Here's a pretty good explainer on Betsy DeVos.

In other news, Rich Miller has reported an executive appointment by Governor Destruction:
Governor Bruce Rauner has appointed Jason Barclay to the Illinois State Board of Education. Barclay’s experience in state government coupled with his time working with an Indianapolis charter school make him uniquely qualified for the position. 
Barclay is currently the General Counsel of Athletico Physical Therapy. Previously, he was General Counsel in the Office of Governor and oversaw the legal departments of Illinois’ Executive Branch. He also worked as a partner at Barnes & Thornburg and as an attorney for former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. 
In addition to his work as an attorney, Barclay helped found a technology-focused charter school in Indianapolis and served on its board. He has also volunteered for DARE.
Barclay earned his bachelor’s degree from Duke University and his law degree from the University of Virginia. He lives in Hinsdale.
Barclay's no stranger to Illinois government, but just to clarify a point about his experience in Indiana--- he was apparently the lawyer for the Gulen-linked Indiana Math and Science Academy, one of the nineteen search-warrant targets of the 2014 FBI multi-state raid on Concept Schools. That investigation has fallen off the radar, but the last we heard, it's still on.  The application for the search warrant in that case is like a little tour through the Gulen Movement's midwest branch.

Back in Turkey, Erdogan is doing everything he can to squeeze the moronic incoming president, Donald Trump, into giving up Fethullah Gulen, although it's not clear to me that the president has any direct control over that situation. Erdogan appears to have jailed an executive from Trump's Turkish business partners, in an obvious effort to gain leverage.  Turkey is a mess; it's a totalitarian nightmare, and I can foresee several paths forward in which we will regret our head-in-sand linkage of our public school system to any of these Turkish mafioso-types.

There's actually quite a bit going on in Gulen-land; I should get back on the case. By the way, Barclay was also the powerhouse lawyer brought in during one of Indiana's Tony Bennett scandals--- the wire fraud, one--- not the one where Bennet changed the state "report card" grade of some fakakta charter they have there.

So, it looks to me like the Gulenists operating in Illinois have another friend on the state board of education. He's also was listed as a board member on the founding documents of a small "blended learning" charter in Indiana.  The future is blended, the future is charter, and the future is opaquely connected to a Turkish religious cult.

H/t Cassie Creswell and Sharon Higgins.
That's all I've got. Here's Duke, at 15.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Walkin' Around

We need longer weekends. How do other people handle this problem?

Here are some scenes from the day.

My favorite: LeafBlower Man. Every once in a while this guy will materialize in the alley west of Greenview to blow the leaves from the area in front of his garage over to the area in front of someone else's garage. He has the world's loudest leaf blower; it's like ten thousand suburbs converge on this one alley, and all the leaf blowers in the country find a voice in this one machine.  We aborted our walk down the alley. A while later, I looked south from North Shore and saw a minor haboob-like phenomenon rising over the block. 

Here's a neighbor's sign. Have I run this shot before? I forget. I always complain about the city because it is a f*cking nightmare living here, but I do love being around people like this. I've lived in the country. This is night a sign you would typically see in upper peninsula Michigan. 

This is the chimney over Sullivan High School, across the street. When you have a boring picture, there's really nothing you can do about it. There it is, a chimney. They were running the boilers. You heard it here first. 

This is a meme I put out there today. I'm trying to see how these things travel over Twitter, who picks them up, who changes them, how they get changed. I posted earlier about all the fake accounts out there, and how it seems to me that someone is working very hard to fan the flames. I wish I could drill deeper into Twitter to see where these fake accounts are coming from. 

Anyway, one of my hopes is that some angry person will change the text on the meme but overlook the little Russian flag on the collar. That will count as a comedic victory, in my mind. Yes, the chin is fictional as well. I'm sure it bothers someone somewhere.

Not all the accounts on Twitter are fake. I made some remark or other to one of the Trump accounts today or yesterday, and some anonymous dude responded with some homophobic remark. So, I clicked around a bit, and with a little bit of finesse I was able to figure out that it was a real guy in a real Florida town. I found his address, his phone number, his mug shot (!)  (domestic abuse), and basically anything I would need to be a stalker if I were so inclined, which I'm not.  It's pretty scary how easy it all is. 

I have definitely pulled back. No more online banking, no more re-used passwords. In fact, I can barely open anything anymore because of my new password strategy. Confusing, abstruse passwords stored in a way where it's more work to get to them than I really care to do. No more public email. I don't open email messages any more; I just read the headings. The few people I need to email with have been told how to reach me.  The cell phone is now just for texting and twitter. No email on that, no browsing, no cloud services at all. There are other things we all need to be doing with our phones but I've said enough for now. 

Strange times, huh?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Weaponized Twitter and Actual Work

Arg..... I can't work anymore. It so interferes with blogging.

I've been having a wonderful time on Twitter, saying provocative things to stir the pot. And I must say I've learned quite a bit about photo editing. I can make Trump's already commodious chin look like something out of a medical training film. 

I really don't think that effective resistance to Trump is going to happen on Twitter, but I have been enjoying the experiment.

Here's what I've noticed.

When you go out on the hashtags and insult Trump on Twitter, particularly when you do it in a reply to one of his stupid Tweets, you get an awful lot of interactions with people. 

Some of them are real: people who either agree with you or hate you. A few of them are real, but look fake. But most of them are fake. 

There are a lot of fake Twitter accounts, and they're all very busy fighting you or retweeting you when you go after Trump. Someone wants us to keep stirring and stirring the pot.

I'm fascinated by it all. Over the years, I've had to deal with a number of aggressive Turks regarding the Gulen issue, so I'm used to that, but these fake Trump accounts, this is a whole new world.

I'm pretty sure the point of it all is to prop up a polarizing, weak, illegitimized president and fan the flames across the land.  Shake the core beliefs. Question the institutions, the relationships. It's probably working. By the way, the president-elect became illegitimate when he accepted the Putin's help--- that was the plan. Gut the legitimacy of the presidency and then fan the flames. 

We have to oppose Trump; he's a catastrophe and a disgrace. But someone has figured out how to weaponize Trump's idiotic Twitter habits, which seem to drive the news cycle. 

I'm going to keep studying it for a while while I'm stuck in this work/sleep/babysit dogs cycle. 

Meanwhile, there's nothing to do but act locally.  Jan Schakowsky and the local elected progressives had a forum today. We're going to have to stick together, even if we disagree on the way things ought to be. I'm pretty sure I can work with anyone, except for the alderman.

I sometimes joke in winter that I forget why I moved back here from Phoenix. But aside from the weather, it's a pleasure to be represented by people like Jan Schakowsky and Kelly Cassidy every day. I hope we all make it through this coming dark time.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Your Epilepsy Message For The Day

While I'm waiting for the dryer.... I'm going to write about this sign I see on the trains from time to time.

If you suffer from seizure disorder and you ride the CTA, the Epilepsy Foundation is trying to get a message to you. But possibly the budget is limited, so their signs are on the ceiling. Maybe it's a strategy; I have no idea.

People rarely see the signs on the ceiling.

So here's what they say.

That's 800-273-6027.